There is no way to spin the disappointment of the Bears’ 3-6 record at the halfway point of the 2021 season, but the schedule has been a bear, too.
Bears opponents are 43-33, and that is badly skewed by the 0-8 Detroit Lions, one of only two losing teams the Bears faced.
They are 31st in total offense, sixth running the football, 32nd throwing it, 31st in interception percentage, 32nd in QB sacks allowed percentage, 27th on third down and 30th in points scored.
After a strong start, the defense has slipped, as well. The Bears are 13th in total defense, 23rd vs. the run, 10th vs. the pass, second in QB sack percentage, 16th on third down and 22nd in points allowed.
The team grade is a C- and only that high because of the difficulty of schedule.
Justin Fields has come a long way fast for a rookie QB, but he has to be graded here for what he’s given the team on the field. He is the second lowest-rated passer in the league ahead of only fellow rookie Zach Wilson, and you see the offensive numbers above. Grade: C-
This has been the brightest spot on the roster with David Montgomery on a Pro Bowl pace until a knee injury sidelined him, and rookie Khalil Herbert then stepping in to maintain the ground game without skipping a beat. Grade: A-
RECEIVERS and TIGHT ENDS
The only pass catcher on the team to exceed last year’s production and expectations has been Cole Kmet. Darnell Mooney has been good but not what you’d expect or need as Fields’ primary target with Allen Robinson and Jimmy Graham often ignored. Jesse James has been a nice addition, but Marquise Goodwin has been badly underused and Damiere Byrd a nonfactor. Grade: C-
These guys are a real mixed bag with Jason Peters a late arrival and injuries to Teven Jenkins, Larry Borom and Germain Ifedi seriously disrupting the plan. Cody Whitehair, Sam Mustipher and James Daniels have been solid at times but inconsistent, and Peters has been a warrior and excellent leader. Alex Bars has done a nice job in a Swiss Army knife role. Grade: B-
FRONT SEVEN: Priority No. 1 for this group was to rediscover the pass rush, and they have with Robert Quinn the Bears’ defensive MVP to date in a photo finish with Khalil Mack until he injured his foot. Bilal Nichols, Angelo Blackson and Mario Edwards Jr. are solid contributors, although Edwards Jr. has too many costly penalties, and Eddie Goldman was the best player on the field vs. the Steelers.
At linebacker, Roquan Smith will merit All-Pro consideration again, and the combo of Alec Ogletree and Danny Trevathan has been really solid. Grade: B
Jaylon Johnson is young and learning but looks like a Pro Bowler in the making, and while not yet close enough to his 2018 self, Eddie Jackson has been much improved this year.
Kindle Vildor has the makings of a solid NFL starter or better but has been picked on lately as teams have targeted him with their top receivers trying to stay away from Johnson. Tashaun Gipson is just a solid pro with big-play ability, and Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson have been very good in backup roles. After a slow start, Duke Shelley is coming on at the nickel. Grade: B-
Kicker Cairo Santos is an A+, and punter Patrick O’Donnell a solid B as both have kicked and contributed well.
But punt coverage has been an adventure and not often a pleasant one. Although Jakeem Grant is exciting, and you can see the potential he has, he has yet to make a meaningful contribution in the return game. Grade: B
This is the toughest of all because they are what the record says they are, but how do you gauge the mountain they’ve had to climb with that schedule and the rookie QB?
The job does not appear at all too big for defensive coordinator Sean Desai. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has done some nice things with play-calling, and the head coach only completely fails when he loses his locker room, which we saw again Monday night isn’t the case with Matt Nagy. Grade: C-